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13 June 19. The new way security factors into acquisitions. Despite conventional wisdom that may suggest otherwise, the Department of Defense is willing to pay extra for security measures in defense systems bought from contractors, Pentagon officials said at the Professional Services Council Federal Acquisition Conference June 13.
“Security is an allowable cost,” said Katie Arrington, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition for cyber. She emphasized that philosophy had the backing of her boss, Kevin Fahey, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.
Fahey criticized those who say security should be a trade-off in an acquisition, which places the criteria on the same plane as cost, schedule and performance.
“That’s stupid as shit,” Fahey said. He added, “in our contracts in the future, cyber is going to be a requirement.”
The federal acquisition process is primarily driven by the need to meet cost, performance and scheduling goals, an emphasis that poses a major security risk, according to a 2019 report from the MITRE Corporation, a non-profit organization that does government research. Instead, the report said, the Defense Department needs to focus on security measures.
“Defense acquisition only will function in a secure environment,” Arrington said. “Only. So cost, schedule and performance cannot be traded for security.”
Under the current system, Arrington said, it’s like someone bought a Maserati, installed a high-tech security system, put up a fence around it, but then left the gate open, the keys on the dashboard and the doors open. Now, she said the government and industry must think critically about security.
“It’s not the new widget and software, it’s the process you have to think about in security,” Arrington said.
Because so many contractors have access to Defense Department data, Arrington stressed that the department and contractors must work together on the security issues.
Intellectual property theft from adversaries, such as China, is a primary threat faced by Defense Department and its contractors. China accounted for more than 90 percent of Justice Department’s economic espionage cases and two-thirds of its trade secrets cases from 2011-2018, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
“We should be infuriated as a nation about what’s happened to our data,” Arrington said.
The MITRE report noted that the Defense Department’s financial influence – and its $700bn budget – can impose the security changes needed on thousands of businesses. And Pentagon leaders appear to be willing to flex those muscles with its newly announced Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, an effort to create one unified cybersecurity standard. The DoD is working with Johns Hopkins University and Carnegie Mellon University to develop that criteria.
“We all know that what we’ve been doing isn’t working so we have to come up with a different solution,” Fahey said.
The new model will include third party cybersecurity certifiers to “conduct audits, collect metrics, and inform risk mitigation for the entire supply chain,” Arrington’s presentation said.
“Every contract that goes out will have a requirement and every vendor on that contract will have to get certified,” Arrington said. “Security is an allowable cost.”
How security will be measured is another challenge faced by government agencies as they work to implement tighter security requirements on their systems. Arrington and Joyce Corell, assistant director of supply chain and cyber directorate at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said their agencies need to move away from compliance checklists to assess security.
“It has to be something more than a compliance checklist that we can measure,” Corell said.
The new DoD standard will not allow contractors to self-attest because “when you look in the mirror, it’s really hard to find flaw,” Arrington said.
“If we were all honestly doing all of the … requirements, there wouldn’t be a plane flying around from China that looks suspiciously like the F-35,” she said. “I can’t say it any clearer than that, ladies and gentlemen. If we were all doing it right, that wouldn’t be happening.”
(Source: Fifth Domain)
13 June 19. There are Turkish jets in the Pentagon’s latest F-35 deal. Here’s why that’s not a big problem. The Pentagon’s latest deal with Lockheed Martin for new F-35 jets includes some for Turkey, raising the question of what will happen if the country is pushed out of the program.
The handshake agreement announced Monday totals about $34bn for 478 new F-35s over lots 12 through 14, including about five to 10 jets for Turkey per lot, one source told Defense News.
But that might not complicate the process of finalizing the contract agreement, aerospace analysts and other sources close to the program said — even as the Defense Department begins “unwinding” Turkey’s participation in the program.
Click here for an exclusive look at the F-35′s most critical shortfalls
At issue is Turkey’s purchase of the S-400, a Russian air defense system that U.S. and NATO officials say is at odds with the alliance’s plan to field the F-35. Despite months of discussions between Ankara and Washington, Turkish leaders have emphatically maintained that it will not cancel the S-400 order.
In response, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on June 6 approved a plan to strip Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkish pilots and maintainers undergoing training at U.S. bases are required to leave the United States by July 31, and contracts with Turkish defense companies could end in 2020.
Ankara has since doubled down on its intent to buy the S-400. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that the purchase is already “a done deal” and that the Russian air defense system will be delivered in July, according to Reuters.
“We will call to account in every platform Turkey being excluded from the F-35 program for reasons without rationale or legitimacy,” Erdogan said.
So what if Turkey leaves?
Sources told Defense News that Turkey’s potential exit from the program isn’t expected to have much of an impact on the deal for lots 12 through 14.
The Pentagon hasn’t provided exact costs per unit for the new F-35s, but it has acknowledged that unit flyaway costs will decrease by about 8.8 percent in Lot 12, made up of 157 jets. The department also estimates unit prices will drop by about 15 percent from Lot 11 to Lot 14 across all variants.
By that framework, F-35 customers will be able to buy an F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing model for less than $80 million by Lot 13 — one year earlier than expected. That isn’t expected to change, even if Turkey is knocked from the program, a department source said.
Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research said it’s likely the number of jets and the negotiated prices in the handshake agreement will stand, adding that the Defense Department still has options on the table.
“They can let Turkey go ahead and have those jets [and] park them in the desert [until this issue is resolved]. They can switch to a customer that wants earlier deliveries — also an option,” she said.
Dealing with these types of problems isn’t new for the United States, added Grant, who pointed to the U.S. arms embargo on Pakistan in 1990, which resulted in the country’s F-16s being placed into storage.
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group, said there are multiple ways for the Pentagon to deal with the fallout of a Turkish exit from the program.
Countries like Singapore and Poland, which have expressed interest in buying F-35s, could join the program and pick up the slack. If Congress adds F-35s to upcoming budget cycles — which has been typical in recent years — the U.S. armed services could buy Turkey’s jets.
“I really don’t see it as a challenge,” Aboulafia said. “This is not the same as building white tails in the commercial aviation business.”
Another option was outlined by Marillyn Hewson, the head of F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, in May: Sell Turkey’s jets to existing international customers.
“It’s not a significant number of aircraft that if there was a sanction that they couldn’t receive those aircraft now or in the future; it will be backfilled,” she said at Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference, according to Defense One. “In fact, a lot of countries say: ‘We’ll take their [production line] slots.’ They [other countries] really want the aircraft. I don’t envision that being an impact on us from a Turkey standpoint.”
U.S. officials remain hopeful that Turkey will cancel its S-400 order, and they have made it clear that Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program will continue if that happens.
“Turkey still has the option to change course. If Turkey does not accept delivery of the S-400, we will enable Turkey to return to normal F-35 program activities,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, said June 7.
The U.S. government is no rush to expel Turkey from the program, Grant said. Including Turkey in the current contract negotiations helps send that message.
“We need Turkey in NATO, and we’d like to see a Turkish Air Force with F-35s,” she said. “This is going to take some diplomacy.”
Aboulafia noted that Turkey benefits from its involvement in the F-35 program, with its companies manufacturing parts for the jet’s F135 engine and a second supplier providing the center fuselage. The country has made the development of its defense industry a priority, and risks becoming a cottage industry if it alienates its NATO allies, he said.
“This does not do it any favors. They are going to have to line up partners and programs very fast,” he added.
But the prospect of a happy resolution is looking increasing grim, he said.
“There is no room for compromise [on the U.S. side], and on the other side you have a populist, who is making this a test of his leadership. There is a lot of ego here.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
13 June 19. House panel advances $733bn defense budget bill over GOP objections. House lawmakers advanced a $733bn defense policy bill on Thursday after nearly 21 hours of sometimes heated debate on the size of the Pentagon budget, the size of the country’s nuclear arsenal and a host of other military priorities for next year.
The 33-24 final vote by the House Armed Services Committee on the draft of the defense authorization bill marked one of the most divided stances from the committee in years, as Republicans voiced concerns with Democrats’ priorities in the measure.
The legislation, which sets military spending policy for the upcoming fiscal year, has been adopted by Congress for 58 consecutive years, usually by sizable bipartisan margins. Committee officials insist that’s because the needs of the military usually rise above the partisan politics of Capitol Hill.
But this year, the narrow passage out of committee illustrated the stark divide in defense policy between the two parties, and hints at a lengthy battle to come as the measure moves across Capitol Hill to the Republican-controlled Senate in the coming weeks.
Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., in recent days said he is committed to finding a palatable bill for both Republicans and Democrats. But during the marathon debate he repeatedly defended his party’s plans for $733bn in defense spending for fiscal 2020 as a responsible and sufficient mark.
“By a reasonably comfortable margin, this is the largest budget we will have ever passed in Congress (for defense) and it’s a significant improvement on where we were before,” he said before the committee vote.
Smith had already set aside some of his own priorities in a bid to win support from the panel’s hawkish Republicans, who are likely to influence their caucus when it comes time to vote the bill out of the House. Without that support, Democrats may struggle to gather enough votes from progressives in their own caucus, who have questioned even the lower level of spending.
But Senate Republicans have already set their authorization bill draft at $750bn, a mark recommended by the White House and defended by HASC ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. He said that the figure is needed to keep pace with military modernization and readiness needs.
Thornberry’s amendment included a lengthy laundry list of weapons and platforms left out of the bill.
“I worry that we talk about this like it’s just numbers we’re pulling out of the air,” he said. “These are real things. An aircraft carrier gets delayed a year if $733bn is the way it comes out.”
The bill includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for troops next January — a point of agreement on both sides that Smith repeatedly referenced — and provisions for increased protections for sexual assault victims, increased oversight of military housing problems and parameters for a new Space Corps within the Air Force.
But fights over the effects of climate change on national security, limitations on the use of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and a provision mandating gender integration in Marine Corps basic training further divided the committee.
On a series of Republican amendments aimed at preserving funds for the nuclear arsenal — including one to protect deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons on submarines — Democrats repeatedly defeated Republican proposals.
Similarly, the committee upheld several provisions designed to put a check on President Donald Trump’s ability to shift resources from the Defense Department to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his emergency powers to shift Department of Defense funds for the border and send thousands of troops there. In the committee debate, Republicans generally argued Trump is taking necessary and normal steps to secure the border given political resistance to addressing the issue.
“I want everybody to understand we have been sending DoD assets to the border since the Alamo,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, who sponsored one of the amendments. “We have to do it in order to keep our border secure and deal with the humanitarian crisis.”
The measure now shifts to the full House, where Smith and Democratic leadership will have to build a coalition of supporters to get the measure to negotiations with the Senate. That chamber will vote on its draft next week. Work on a compromise draft between the House and Senate is expected to last through most of the summer and fall. (Source: Defense News)
13 June 19. General Dynamics CEO ‘alarmed’ by tech industry reaction to Pentagon. General Dynamics head Phebe Novakovic this week said she was “alarmed” by members of Silicon Valley who refuse to work with the Pentagon, in perhaps the most pointed comments from a defense company CEO toward colleagues in the tech community. Asked at a Tuesday event hosted by the Boston College Chief Executives Club, Novakovic was asked whether she felt big Silicon Valley tech companies should do more to help or work with the defense industry. Her response was unequivocal.
“Yes. And I’m frankly alarmed when I see some companies to whom much is given not willing to work with the U.S. government,” said Novakovic, who worked at the CIA and Pentagon before moving to GD.
“Who do they think provides them this freedom? Who do they think the platform for their technology innovation comes from? It comes from security and stability of this nation. So I find, as an American, that’s troubling.”
That sentiment has not been unusual around the Pentagon in the wake of last year’s decision by Google to pull out of its Project Maven contract with the department, following an open letter by members of the company who felt the tech giant should not be involved in defense programs.
The issue was brought to the forefront once again in March, when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford directly challenged Google on its willingness to work with China but not the Pentagon. Like Novakovic, he argued that Silicon Valley has only reached its level of success because “our system of government in enabling of individual ideas to bubble up and advance the world, whether it’s medically, education, artificial intelligence, you name it.”
But leaders from the largest defense firms have largely stayed above the fray, likely in part to the fact many of them do business with other technology firms in one way or another. Novakovic acknowledged that reality, saying “there are real opportunities for cooperation, and many of those companies do cooperate.” She also noted that GD has an office in the Silicon Valley area.
“I think it’s our job as I was talking about earlier to canvass throughout the United States and take that rich body of research that we produce as a nation every year and figure out how do we make that work to enhance our national security,” she said.
Novakovic was similarly direct earlier in the event, when asked to identify the top threats to the nation. While acknowledging near-peer competitors as a challenge, she saved her most pointed comments for an internal challenge.
“I worry, as an American, I worry profoundly about our divisiveness as a nation. Democracy requires shared values, and I don’t see that we have — we’re not having a national narrative about our shared values. There’s too much anger and hatred,” she said. “I worry a lot about the corrosive and cancerous effects of all that anger and hatred, sometimes flat out hatred. And that, I think, is scary.
“You can destroy yourself much faster than an enemy can. Typically great empires fall from the inside out. I worry an awful lot about that at the same time as I worry about some other serious threats. That’s something we need to have a national dialogue about.” (Source: Defense News)
13 June 19. Lockheed Martin says F-35 cost cuts a year ahead of plan. Lockheed Martin is a year ahead of schedule with its plan to cut the cost of its F-35 A fighter jet variant to $80m by 2020, the U.S. company said on Thursday.
“We have beaten the goal by a full year,” Lockheed Martin campaign manager Mark Pranke told a news conference in Helsinki, where the company is seeking a deal worth an estimated 7-10bn euros (£6.2 – £8.9bn) to replace Finland’s ageing 64 Hornet fighter jets.
Finland’s new centre-left government said last week it would pick new fighter jets in 2021 from five shortlisted options, including U.S.-based Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, French firm Dassault’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Swedish firm Saab’s Jas Gripen, as well as the F-35.
The new jets are considered crucial for the defence capability of the Nordic country, which shares an 833-mile (1,340 km) border and a difficult history with Russia but has opted to stay out of NATO.
However, their purchase is also a costly move for the small nation, representing about 15% of the government’s annual budget of 55.5bn euros ($62.7bn) in 2019.
Lockheed Martin’s cost cutting could make its F-35s a more affordable option, but Pranke stressed there were factors other than price to be considered, such as the aircraft’s stealth capability, allowing it to evade radar detection.
“In this environment in Finland, where you have threats just across the border, it’s not enough just to have an aircraft that meets the price,” Pranke told Reuters.
Finland’s choice is also about the deal’s impact on defence cooperation, which could favour Sweden’s Jas Gripen.
Finland has kept the door open to joining the NATO but is unlikely to do so in the near future, with the centre-left government and public opinion against such move.
In its government programme, the centre-left government led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Antti Rinne highlighted the importance of cooperation with neighbouring Sweden.
“Closer defence cooperation between Finland and Sweden, which are militarily non-allied states, offers special opportunities for strengthening the two countries’ defence”, it said. (Source: Reuters)
12 June 19. Lawmakers push and pull over $750bn defense policy bill. NDAA top line at HASC markup. Partisan sparring over the size of the defense budget marked the House Armed Services Committee’s debate of its annual policy bill Wednesday, highlighting the headwinds faced by the legislation. Rebuking at the House bill’s $733bn top line, which is $17bn less than the Trump administration requested, panel Republicans threw their weight behind an amendment to add the money back. The GOP-controlled Senate is due to consider a rival $750bn bill that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. If the committee’s hawkish Republicans vote against the bill in large numbers at the markup, the chamber’s Republicans will also vote against it, observers said.
In that scenario, Democrats would have to rally their own ranks ― a challenge when the number of progressives in the party have expanded since 49 Democrats voted against the annual defense policy bill last year.
HASC’s ranking member, Rep. Mac Thornberry, offered the measure to meet the administration’s request and the Pentagon’s unfunded acquisition priorities. In lockstep Wednesday, Republicans repeatedly argued that a $750bn top line reflects the 3 to 5 percent minimum growth defense leaders have testified they need to counter Russia and China.
“That is what is required to continue to repair readiness and not fall behind critical areas with the Russians and Chinese,” Thornberry said “Hypersonics: We cut the administration’s request and we are behind in hypersonics.”
A few other Republicans characterized the $17bn reduction in terms of acquisition programs, like House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee ranking member Rob Wittman, R-Va. The $17bn delta represents “significant carnage,” including more than $500m in submarine construction, nearly $400m in aircraft carrier construction, $200 in carrier refueling and nearly $100m in destroyer construction.
Wittman offered a soliloquy likening the sea power section of the bill to the book “Tale of Two Cities,” because some parts he favored and some were akin to the “late night winter of despair.”
On the top-line, HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., argued the defense budget is on a strong, yearslong upward trajectory. He added that $733bn is a great improvement on the $576bn budget cap and that the Defense Department initially prepared a $733bn budget.
“If you simply give them another $17bn, which has not gone through the rigorous analysts that the $733 went to, it is my legitimate concern that that $17bn will be wasted,” Smith said.
Thornberry fired back that accident rates have climbed as lawmakers have held back. “What happens is we keep asking them to do more and more without giving them resources to do the job? And unfortunately they suffer the consequences,” he said.
Several Republicans favored the Thornberry amendment’s inclusion of $2.3bn to repair military installations that were damaged by floods and hurricanes.
Smith defended the bill, saying the aid was excluded because the president recently signed a $1.6bn disaster aid bill that covers the posts’ 2019 needs. The House Appropriations Committee planned to provide funding for 2020 needs, he said.
The Defense Department estimates total rebuilding costs at $4.8bn, according to committee staff. Beyond the $1.6bn bill for fiscal 2019, House appropriators approved $2.3bn for fiscal 2020 — but that amount is not included in the defense policy bill.
The $1.6bn bill “does not make them whole,” Thornberry said.
The debate was expected to continue, as Thornberry’s amendment is likely to come to a vote during the markup, which is expected to stretch from Wednesday into the early morning of Thursday. (Source: Defense News)
12 June 19. Over the past several years, U.S. Defense Department leaders have gone from citing technical problems as their biggest concern for the F-35 program to bemoaning the expense of buying and sustaining the aircraft. But the reality may be worse. According to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News, the F-35 continues to be marred by flaws and glitches that, if left unfixed, could create risks to pilot safety and call into question the fighter jet’s ability to accomplish key parts of its mission:
F-35B and F-35C pilots, compelled to observe limitations on airspeed to avoid damage to the F-35’s airframe or stealth coating. Cockpit pressure spikes that cause “excruciating” ear and sinus pain. Issues with the helmet-mounted display and night vision camera that contribute to the difficulty of landing the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.
These are some of the problems with the jet that the documents describe as category 1 deficiencies — the designation given to major flaws that impact safety or mission effectiveness.
Thirteen of the most serious flaws are described in detail, including the circumstances associated with each issue, how it impacts F-35 operations and the Defense Department’s plans to ameliorate it.
All but a couple of these problems have escaped intense scrutiny by Congress and the media. A few others have been briefly alluded to in reports by government watchdog groups.
But the majority of these problems have not been publicly disclosed, exposing a lack of transparency about the limitations of the Defense Department’s most expensive and high-profile weapons system.
These problems impact far more operators than the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy customer base. Twelve countries — Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom — have all selected the aircraft as their future fighter of choice, and nine partner nations have contributed funds to the development of the F-35.
Taken together, these documents provide evidence that the F-35 program is still grappling with serious technical problems, even as it finds itself in a key transitional moment.
And the clock is ticking. By the end of 2019, Defense Department leaders are set to make a critical decision on whether to shut the door on the F-35’s development stage and move forward with full-rate production. During this period, the yearly production rate will skyrocket from the 91 jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin in 2018 to upward of 160 by 2023.
Generally speaking, the department’s policy calls for all deficiencies to be closed before full-rate production starts. This is meant to cut down on expensive retrofits needed to bring existing planes to standard.
The F-35 Joint Program Office appears to be making fast progress, but not all problems will be solved before the full-rate production decision, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the Defense Department’s F-35 program executive.
“None of them, right now, are against any of the design, any of the hardware or any of the manufacturing of the aircraft, which is what the full-rate production decision is for,” he told Defense News in an interview. “There are no discrepancies that put at risk a decision of the department to approve us to go into full-rate production.”
Nine out of 13 problems will likely either be corrected or downgraded to category 2 status before the Pentagon determines whether to start full-rate production, and two will be adjudicated in future software builds, Winter said.
However, the F-35 program office has no intention of correcting two of the problems addressed in the documents, with the department opting to accept additional risk.
Winter maintains that none of the issues represent any serious or catastrophic risk to pilots, the mission or the F-35 airframe. After being contacted by Defense News, the program office created two designations of category 1 problems to highlight the difference between issues that would qualify as an emergency and others that are more minor in nature.
“CAT 1-As are loss of life, potential loss of life, loss of material aircraft. Those have to be adjudicated, have to be corrected within hours, days. We have no CAT 1-A deficiencies,” Winter said.
Instead, the deficiencies on the books all fall under category 1B, which represents problems “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time,” Winter added.
Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the F-35 program, said currently fielded F-35s are meeting or exceeding performance specifications.
“These issues are important to address, and each is well understood, resolved or on a path to resolution,” he said. “We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.”
The status of deficiencies
According to a June 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office, the program had 111 category 1 deficiencies on the books in January 2018. By May 24, 2018, that number had decreased to 64 open category 1 problems out of a total 913 deficiencies, according to one document obtained by Defense News.
Another document obtained by Defense News noted that at least 13 issues would need to be held as category 1 deficiencies going into operational tests in fall 2018.
The 13 deficiencies include:
- The F-35’s logistics system currently has no way for foreign F-35 operators to keep their secret data from being sent to the United States.
- The spare parts inventory shown by the F-35’s logistics system does not always reflect reality, causing occasional mission cancellations.
- Cabin pressure spikes in the cockpit of the F-35 have been known to cause barotrauma, the word given to extreme ear and sinus pain.
- In very cold conditions — defined as at or near minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit — the F-35 will erroneously report that one of its batteries have failed, sometimes prompting missions to be aborted.
- Supersonic flight in excess of Mach 1.2 can cause structural damage and blistering to the stealth coating of the F-35B and F-35C.
- After doing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots are not always able to completely control the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw.
- If the F-35A and F-35B blows a tire upon landing, the impact could also take out both hydraulic lines and pose a loss-of-aircraft risk.
- A “green glow” sometimes appears on the helmet-mounted display, washing out the imagery in the helmet and making it difficult to land the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.
- On nights with little starlight, the night vision camera sometimes displays green striations that make it difficult for all variants to see the horizon or to land on ships.
- The sea search mode of the F-35’s radar only illuminates a small slice of the sea’s surface.
- When the F-35B vertically lands on very hot days, older engines may be unable to produce the required thrust to keep the jet airborne, resulting in a hard landing.
The Pentagon has identified four additional category 1 deficiencies since beginning operational tests in December 2018, mostly centered around weapons interfaces, Winter said.
“They are not catastrophic. If they were, they’d have to stop test. There’s nothing like that,” he said. “They will be straightforward software fixes. We just need to get to them.”
Those four category 1 deficiencies will likely not be fixed or downgraded before the full-rate production decision, he said. Additionally, the service will likely need more time to address the F-35B engine thrust issue and the radar’s sea search mode problem. The problems that occur when the “B” and “C” models fly in excess of Mach 1.2 will not be fixed, as they are considered to have extremely low probability of occurring during operations.
All told, Winter expects to have about nine category 1 deficiencies still on the books as the F-35 moves to full-rate production: the eight problems defined above, and whatever surprises occur as the jet continues operational tests.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Defense News shared the list of deficiencies with two senior naval aviators — one active and one recently retired — who agreed to review the document. Each offered a different perspective on the seriousness of the problems.
The recently retired aviator said some of the issues jumped off the page at him, including the cabin over-pressurization issue, given the rash of over-pressurization issues in other aircraft, including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-22 Raptor.
But perhaps the most serious for aerial combat operations is the combination of maneuvering issues when the aircraft is operating above a 20-degree angle of attack and the issue of possible structural damage and damage to the low-observable coating when using the afterburner. That coating helps provide the F-35 a stealth capability.
“The one that stood out to me was, wait a minute, you’re telling me that the latest, greatest aircraft — [a] $100m aircraft — can’t perform?” the retired fighter pilot said. “It has random oscillations, pitch and yaw issues above 20A?”
However, the naval aviator currently in service said the list of deficiencies did not alarm him and that, given that the F-35 is still new to the fleet, such issues are inevitable.
“That document looks like growing pains for an aircraft that we tried to do a whole lot to all at once,” the senior aviator said. “You’re going to see that if you dig back at what Super Hornets looked like for the first few years. Go back in the archives and look at [the F-14] Tomcat — think about that with the variable sweep-wing geometry, the AUG9 radar: There was a lot of new technology incorporated into the aircraft, and there is going to be growing pains.”
Other organizations have also registered concerns about the price of fixing deficiencies.
The GAO in June 2018 warned lawmakers that moving forward with full-rate producing without fixing technical issues could drive up the cost of the F-35 program.
“If the critical deficiencies are not resolved before moving to production, the F-35 program faces additional concurrency costs to fix fielded aircraft — which are currently estimated at $1.4bn,” the GAO stated in the report.
Winter told Defense News that the program office is taking steps to try to minimize the price of fixing the fighter jet, such as bundling in corrections to deficiencies with other software and hardware updates to decrease labor costs.
However, it is unclear how much of the cost burden will be left for the taxpayers to shoulder. The program office is recording the extra expenditures associated with fixing the deficiencies, Winter said. Ultimately, it plans to bring that data into negotiations with Lockheed in the hopes of getting the company to cover those costs.
Other watchdog organizations have criticized the deficiency litigation process for its lack of transparency. In 2018, the Project on Government Oversight blasted the F-35 program after obtaining documents that showed the Joint Deficiency Review Board downgrading 19 category 1 issues to the lower category 2 rating.
Although the Defense Department has the latitude to reclassify problems that it feels aren’t serious enough to merit the category 1 moniker, the watchdog argued that there was no fix or workaround in place for 10 of those problems.
“With the revelation that officials made paperwork fixes to make these serious deficiencies appear acceptable, it seems that much of that work is being ignored in the name of political expediency and protecting F-35 funding,” the organization stated.
Winter pointed out that the program office does not have the power to waive or downgrade deficiencies, which can be written by the test community, operators or any other stakeholder in the F-35 program. Instead, deficiencies must be evaluated by the Joint Deficiency Review Board, which includes members from the program office, the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team responsible for assessing the F-35 during operational tests, developmental testers located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force Base, as well as other representatives from the armed services and industry.
The F-35’s list of ongoing technical problems are unlikely to pose an existential threat to the program given the recent progress in fixing issues, driving down the costs of the airframe and continued support on Capitol Hill for the fighter jet.
“I would put this down to, frankly, growing pains that you’d expect from a sophisticated, modern aircraft program. Nothing really stands out [as particularly troubling], primarily because they seem to be well on the way toward being addressed,” said Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “What has been done to address these have reduced the concerns regarding safety of flight. Doesn’t mean that there isn’t still work to be done. And it doesn’t mean new things won’t be discovered.”
The list of deficiencies as a whole is in some ways encouraging, the currently serving aviator said, because it looks like the issues are being identified by the engineers and technicians working on the program.
“I think what you see in that document is an airplane that fell behind schedule, that was rushed to get back up to schedule under immense political and industry pressure. They had a lot of next-gen[eration] technologies all at once, and they’re working through what all of that looks like together,” the aviator said.
“I don’t see anything in that document that makes me say: ‘Holy sh–, what did we buy?’ If the questions is, ‘Why does the aircraft have all these problems?’, I don’t know, it may sound trite, but it’s a really f–ing complicated machine.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
06 June 19. Senators Make Bipartisan Push to Halt Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia. Senators are making a new bipartisan effort to block the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a sign that Congress remains unsatisfied with the United States’ relationship with the kingdom amid a civil war in neighboring Yemen and the killing of a Saudi journalist last year. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are using a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to request a report from the administration on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, which could eventually trigger a vote to halt billions in arms sales which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is moving forward despite congressional opposition.
“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight,” Young said. “This bipartisan resolution simply asks the secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention, and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation.”
Murphy and Young both serve on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Young chairs the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, an organization generally supportive of the president and his policies. (end of excerpt)
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE; Separately, Politico’s daily newsletter reported that a State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the specific Murphy-Young plan, but cited the dangers of holding off on weapons shipments.
“Delaying these shipments could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” the spokesperson said.
Worth watching: On Wednesday, R. Clarke Cooper, the new assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, will be testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The title of the hearing says it all: “What Emergency? Arms Sales and the Administration’s Dubious End-Run around Congress.”) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Politico)
10 June 19. Pentagon gets 8.8% discount in $34bn F-35 jet deal. The U.S. Department of Defense has a “handshake” agreement with Lockheed Martin Co to cut 8.8 percent from the price of its latest order of F-35A fighter jet, shaving a year from the time frame in which each aircraft will cost less than $80m, a Pentagon official said on Monday. The Pentagon said over three years the agreement will be worth $34bn for 478 F-35 fighter jets. It is preliminary and a final deal is expected to be sealed in August for the 12th batch of jets, one of the most expensive aircraft ever produced. The preliminary agreement details the first year, and lays out agreed upon options for two additional years. The options are there because official purchases cannot be made until the U.S. Congress approves an annual budget for those years. This year’s agreement will lower the cost of each F-35A, the most common version of the aircraft, to $81.35m, Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord said, down from $89.2m under a deal inked in August 2018.
Under the options covering the second and third years of the purchase, the price of each jet will drop below $80m, Lord said. In those later years production would be around 160 jets per year.
The F-35 program has long aimed at growing the fleet to more than 3,000 jets and bringing the unit price of the F-35A below $80m through efficiencies gained by ordering larger quantifies.
“I am proud to state that this agreement has achieved an estimated 8.8% savings from Lot 11 to Lot 12 F-35A’s, and an estimated average of 15%” reduction across all variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14, Lord said in the statement. That savings exceeded expectations in a RAND Corp study.
“The unit price for all three F-35 variants was reduced and the agreement will include an F-35A unit cost below $80m in Lot 13, exceeding the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin’s long-standing cost reduction commitment earlier than planned,” the Lockheed Martin F-35 program general manager Greg Ulmer said in a statement.
While being a major part of Lockheed’s revenue, the F-35 has recently been holding competitions to find less expensive subcontractors to help control costs.
The new pricing could encourage more foreign customers to join the F-35 program. Lockheed executives have said that any country with an F-16 jet, the predecessor to the F-35, is a potential customer. This could put the market size at about 4000 jets, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson recently told an investor conference.
Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, the head of the Pentagon’s F-35 office, has testified to Congress, that “future potential foreign military sales customers include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland.”
Foreign military sales like those of the F-35 are considered government-to-government deals where the Pentagon acts as an intermediary between the defense contractor and a foreign government.
Other U.S. allies have been eyeing a purchase of the stealthy jet including Finland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. (Source: Reuters)
10 June 19. Turkish F-35 pilots no longer flying at U.S. base – Pentagon. Training by Turkish pilots on F-35 fighter jets has come to a faster-than-expected halt at a U.S. air base in Arizona, U.S. officials said on Monday, as the United States winds down Ankara’s involvement in the programme over Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian air defence system.
The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defences poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. Washington says Ankara cannot have both.
The move to halt training at Luke Air Force Base, first reported by Reuters, came just days after acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told his Turkish counterpart that Turkish pilots already in the United States could remain there until the end of July. That would have allowed time for more training and for Turkey to rethink its plans.
“The department is aware that the Turkish pilots at Luke AFB are not flying,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters.
“Without a change in Turkish policy, we will continue to work closely with our Turkish ally on winding down their participation in the F-35 programme.”
A second U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that a local commander at Luke decided last week to halt the training of Turkish pilots and maintenance crews over safety concerns.
Some training of Turkish maintenance personnel continues at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the official said.
If Turkey were removed from the F-35 programme, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship with the United States, experts said.
But strains in U.S.-Turkish ties already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey.
Reuters on Thursday first reported a U.S. decision to stop accepting more Turkish pilots to enter the United States for training, in what had been one of the most concrete signs that the dispute over the F-35 was reaching a breaking point. Turkey seems to be moving ahead with the S-400 purchase, regardless of the U.S. warnings. President Tayyip Erdogan said last week it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may go to Turkey. (Source: Reuters)
10 June 19. U.S. has not taken up offer to create S-400 working group, Turkey says. The United States has not yet taken up Turkey’s suggestion of creating a joint working group to try to defuse tensions over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems, a senior Turkish defence official said on Monday. The two NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s order for the S-400s, which are not compatible with the transatlantic alliance’s systems. Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighters and has warned of potential U.S. sanctions if Ankara presses on with the deal.
Turkey, one of the core partners in the F-35 programme and a prospective buyer, has said the S-400s will not impact the jets and has proposed to Washington forming a joint working group to assess U.S. concerns.
Speaking to reporters after an event in Ankara, Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defence Industries Directorate, said Turkey was ready to discuss Washington’s concerns.
“If the source of the concerns is a technical worry stemming from the S-400s being located in Turkey, we have said repeatedly that we are ready to discuss this,” Demir said.
“However, the other side (United States) has not taken any steps to form the technical team and discuss this.”
Demir’s comments come after U.S. Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan last week sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, in which he outlined how Turkey would be pulled out of the F-35 programme if it pressed on with the S-400 deal.
Demir said the Defence Ministry and his directorate were working on sending a response soon.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar is likely to meet with Shanahan in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO summit planned for June 26-27, a senior Turkish official said.
While Turkey has dismissed U.S. warnings, saying the S-400s were a “done deal”, Washington has said discussions are taking place with Ankara on potentially selling Turkey rival Raytheon Co Patriot missile defences.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow and added that the United States had not “given us an offer as good as the S-400s” on the Patriot systems.
On Monday, Demir said Turkey responded to the latest U.S. Patriot offer and was waiting for a response, but did not elaborate further.
In a sign of escalating tensions, sources told Reuters that Washington has decided to stop accepting any more Turkish pilots who planned to train in the United States on the F-35 jets.
Ties between Ankara and Washington have already been tense over a host of issues, including conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey. But removing Turkey from the F-35 programme would be one of the most significant ruptures of recent times. (Source: Reuters)
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